Weizenfeld mit Sonnenuntergang

Metamorphosis: How a ‚council of apostles and older men‘ became the channel of God

Von Christian

When I was a small child, if I had asked my grandparents who was in the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they would probably have looked at me in some amazement. But this is only hypothetical, because at that time the term ‘Governing Body’ was hardly used.

In fact, in the book Life everlasting in freedom of the sons of god (published by Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1966), for example, you could read on page 34 in the table:

Tabelle 2/2 Ewiges Leben in der Freiheit der Söhne Gottes
Tabelle 2/2 Ewiges Leben in der Freiheit der Söhne Gottes

c. 49 AD Jerusalem council of apostles and older men decrees against blood and things strangled

Life everlasting in freedom of the sons of god, 1966, p. 34

From time to time, however, the term has been used before in Jehovah’s Witness publications, for example, in the 1960 Watchtower:

18 … When the matter of circumcision arose, Paul did not summon to a synod the congregation overseers of Antioch and the rest of the province of Syria for the purpose of discussing and deciding on the matter, neither did he expect the spirit of God to give direct guidance to the congregations, but he went to the visible governing body at Jerusalem; and after the matter was settled there under the guidance of the spirit on that body, he was sent back to the congregations to make known the decision to them. …

(a) Did the spirit guide the local congregations direct in the early church? (b) Why might one think complications could arise over decisions made by the visible governing body at Jerusalem, and did they arise?

w60 8/1. p. 470 The Unity of the Christian Church

As stated, the term was rarely used in reference to the leadership of the Jehovah’s Witness organization. Example:

This “slave” class has a governing body rendering counsel and direction as prefigured by Elihu when he gave counsel to ancient Job. (Job 32:1-6)

w60 7/15 p. 438 par. 1 Staying Awake with the “Faithful and Discreet Slave”

Who or what this is remained unexplained in the Watchtower, because this “governing body” is mentioned only once in this sentence in this article. With the index of publications everyone can check for himself that before 1971 this term was used very rarely for the first century as well as for the modern times:

When then did it really start with the modern Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses? In the above screenshot we see the itme ‚beginning‘, w71 760-761. Some excerpts from it:

ON Friday morning, October 1, 1971, the legal corporation known as Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania held its annual corporation meeting, this time in the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses at Buckingham, Pennsylvania. …
At this meeting a question came up and was discussed from the platform. It was as to what the relationship is between the Board of Directors of the Society as a legal corporation and the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Are they the same, identical, or are they different? Such questions were due to the fact that it has been published in print that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s witnesses at headquarters is associated with the Board of Directors of the said Society. …
How did this governing body make its appearance in recent times? Evidently under the direction of Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ. According to the facts available, the governing body became associated with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. C. T. Russell was patently of that governing body back there in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. …
The governing body has the strictly spiritual field for its operation. The legal nonprofit corporation, the Society, has many additional duties as an administrative agency of Jehovah’s witnesses. The governing body is very grateful to God for the religious Society that is to be used as an agency of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. …
Nineteen hundred years ago, the “faithful and discreet slave” class with its governing body functioned without a legal corporation chartered by Caesar, and it did so​—successfully, magnificently. What about the governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” class of the present time?d Can it also function without the legal nonprofit corporation known as Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania? and succeed? In the light of the precedent established by the apostles and fellow elders of the Jerusalem congregation in the first century C.E., we leave you to answer the question for yourself.

w71 12/15 p. 751ff A Governing Body as Different from a Legal Corporation

In this article, the term ‘governing body’ appears a whopping 70 times and ‚body‘ or ‚corporation‘ 100 times! So, in this article, an attempt was made to establish a connection between a ‘governing body’ in the first century, the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ from Jesus’ parable and the leadership of the organization and the legally registered corporations. It is intriguing that in the Watchtower of 1971, among other things, this was asserted:

  • C.T. Russel was ‘obviously’ part of the Governing Body.
  • Already in the 1st century the “class of the faithful and discreet slave” existed.
  • “1,900 years ago, the “faithful and discreet slave” class operated in conjunction with their governing body.”
  • „governing body of the class of the “faithful and discreet slave” in modern times”
  • “The governing body has the strictly spiritual field for its operation.”

Quiz question: Which of these statements still apply today?

Quiz question 2: From when was the phrase “the class of the faithful and discreet slave” no longer used and only “the faithful and discreet slave” was written?

Subsequently, tensions arose between the president N. H. Knorr and the vice-president F. W. Franz and the new ‘Governing Body’. The details have already been explained in various books. We now focus on the changed representation in the publications.

As late as 1971, the Governing Body was still described thus:

Today the organization that God has raised up for preaching the good news of the Kingdom also has a governing body. It represents the “faithful and discreet slave” class of anointed Christians that Jesus spoke about in an illustration at Matthew 24:45 to 47. These fulfill their responsibility to provide spiritual food “at the proper time,” doing so through the governing body. This governing body is closely associated with the board of anointed directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

w71 2/1 p. 81 par. 26 Proclaiming Good News World Wide

Let us note: The ‘faithful and discreet slave’ is a ‘class of anointed Christians‘ who fulfill their responsibilities through the ‘Governing Body’. And this is closely associated with the board of the Watch Tower Bible and Trace Society of Pennsylvania.

Even in 1985, the Watchtower said:

In modern times, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, representing the Master’s “faithful and discreet slave” on earth, follows the same apostolic pattern. (Matthew 24:45-47).

w85 1/1. p.11 par. 8 Unified In Publishing the Word of Jehovah

What role should the Governing Body have in the life of the publishers? Let us see what was said 5 years later:

16 The earthly belongings of the King Jesus Christ have continually grown. … This growth has called for the expansion of facilities at the Society’s headquarters and in its branches, as well as for the modernizing of methods of production and distribution. It has resulted in the building of many Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls throughout the earth. All the while, the Governing Body has also continued to carry the responsibility of overseeing the preaching work, producing Bible study material, and appointing overseers in the branches, districts, circuits, and congregations. These are the Kingdom interests that Christ has committed to the care of the faithful and discreet slave, represented by its Governing Body.
18 … One way we reflect our cooperation with the Governing Body is by remembering these specially appointed ones in our daily prayers.​—Romans 12:12.
19 How do the instructions and decisions of the Governing Body reach the congregations? …

w90 3/15. p. 19 Cooperating With the Governing Body Today

Everything – even material things – are part of the earthly possessions that were handed over to the Governing Body. This sounded different in 1972. Everyone should even pray for them daily. This is a central role in the life of every publisher, isn’t it? And everyone has to abide by their instructions and decisions through the organization of branches and overseers.

This was also emphasized in the Watchtower 2008, for example. It is interesting to analyze the way of argumentation here:

13 In accepting Jehovah’s authority, we need to guard against an independent spirit. A haughty attitude can cause us to feel that we do not need guidance from anyone. For example, we might resist counsel given by those taking the lead among God’s people. God has established an arrangement by which a faithful and discreet slave class provides spiritual food at the proper time. (Matt. 24:45-47) We should humbly recognize that this is the way Jehovah is caring for his people today. Be like the faithful apostles. When some disciples were stumbled, Jesus asked the apostles: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Peter replied: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.”​—John 6:66-68.

w08 6/15 p.21 par. 13 Accept Jehovah’s Authority

The argument begins with recognizing Jehovah’s authority. This is linked to spirit of independence and then a ‚haughty attitude’ in not ‘needing guidance from anyone’. So from supreme authority, to refusal of guidance from anyone. This is turned into counsel in the next sentence. From leadership: that is, the Governing Body and its organization, without naming it. About the class (Note: Still slave class …) of the slave and ‘food at the proper time’ in Matthew 24, it is then reasoned that this is what God intended. Once apart from the fact that no class is mentioned in Matthew 24, it is a parable. But now comes the surprise. The apostles are given as a good example when other disciples ‚were stumbled‘. What then was the reason? Was it Jesus’ advice or guidance? No. It was Jesus’ formulation to eat his flesh and blood. And to whom did they go then? To Jesus himself. And we can still do the same today by reading the Bible: Go to Jesus. Altogether again a beautiful example, how by refined rhetoric and misleading argumentation methods an obedience is demanded, which cannot be justified directly with the Bible.

What role does the Governing Body still play? What does it call itself today, even though the term was sometimes used in the 1950s?

From these words it is clear that, as a group, the anointed footstep followers of Jesus make up this “royal priesthood,” which Peter also called “a holy nation.” They constitute the channel that Jehovah uses to provide his people with instruction and spiritual direction.​—Matthew 24:45-47.

w02 8/1 p. 13 par. 17 Loyally Submit to Godly Authority

We, then, must avoid the snare of jealously trying to protect our own cherished ideas or ways that are not solidly based on God’s Word. We do well to accept the fresh light shed on the Word of God through the channel that Jehovah is using today.

w02 10/15 p.30

Therefore, they are also inserted in the Watchtower April 2013 at this point in the picture:

In 2013 there was an even more remarkable change in the ‘understanding of the Bible’, ‘new light’ that is:

“The faithful and discreet slave”: A small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Today, these anointed brothers make up the Governing Body.

w13 7/15 p. 25 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?” Upper case ‚Governing Body‘ as in the Watchtower

So there was no longer a class of the “faithful and discreet slave” who formed a body, but the Governing Body (written in upper case in the 2013 Watchtower article) was itself this slave – and therefore the addition ‘class’ falls away. Would hardly be appropriate, after all, with only a few men. Significantly, in the same Watchtower not only was it announced that it had been expanded with Mark Sanderson, but also a picture of the Governing Body was printed.

w13 7/15 p. 26

Which role do the other ‚anointed brothers‘, which are not part of the Governing Body, have on earth? The same as the publishers of the ‚other sheep‘ class. The must wait until they will be in heaven, according to the picture in the same Watchtower article:

„All of the 144,000 will share Jesus’ vast heavenly authority (See paragraph 19)“ w13 7/15 p. 25 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”

Nur vier Monate später zeigte sich, welchen Anspruch diese Leitende Körperschaft nun hatte:

At that time, the life-saving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.

w13 11/15 p. 20 par. 17 Seven Shepherds, Eight Dukes—What They Mean for Us Today

In 2017, there were a few more interesting notes regarding the Governing Body under the significant theme: Who leads God’s people today?

10 In 1919, three years after Brother Russell’s death, Jesus appointed “the faithful and discreet slave.” For what purpose? To give his domestics “food at the proper time.” (Matt. 24:45) Even in those early years, a small group of anointed brothers who served at headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, prepared and distributed spiritual food to Jesus’ followers. The expression “governing body” began appearing in our publications in the 1940’s, when it was understood to be closely connected with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. …
The July 15, 2013, issue of The Watchtower explained that “the faithful and discreet slave” is a small group of anointed brothers who make up the Governing Body.
13 Evidence of holy spirit. The holy spirit has helped the Governing Body to grasp Scriptural truths not previously understood. For example, reflect on the list of beliefs clarified that was referred to in the preceding paragraph. Surely, no human deserves credit for discovering and explaining these “deep things of God”! (Read 1 Corinthians 2:10.) The Governing Body echoes the apostle Paul, who wrote: “These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:13). …
14 Evidence of angelic assistance. The Governing Body today has the colossal task of overseeing an international preaching work involving over eight million evangelizers. Why has that work been so successful? For one, angels are involved. (Read Revelation 14:6, 7.) …
16 Read Hebrews 13:7. The word rendered “remember” can also be translated “mention.” Therefore, one way you can “remember those who are taking the lead” is by mentioning the Governing Body in your prayers. (Eph. 6:18). …
17 Of course, remembering the Governing Body involves not just words but also cooperation with its direction. The Governing Body provides the direction given in our publications and at our meetings, assemblies, and conventions. In addition, it appoints circuit overseers, who in turn appoint congregation elders. Circuit overseers and elders remember the Governing Body by sticking closely to guidelines given to them. All of us show respect for our Leader, Jesus, by being obedient and submissive to the men he is using to direct us.​—Heb. 13:17.

w17 February p. 23-28 Who Is Leading God’s People Today? (Italics in the publication)

Let us summarize:

  • Russel was no longer ‘obviously‘ part of the “faithful and discreet slave” who worked 1900 years ago, as it was still doctrine in 1971.
  • The “faithful and discreet” slave no longer works through the Governing Body. It is the slave.
  • The Holy Spirit helps the Governing Body with their teachings. Even though, as a precaution, the preceding paragraph says that they are not infallible and even publish list with ‘new light’.
  • Angels help the Governing Body. This is said in relation to the preaching work, but in the context of the leadership of the Governing Body.
  • One should pray for the Governing Body.
  • Adhere to instructions and guidelines. “All of us show respect for our Leader, Jesus, by being obedient and submissive to the men he is using to direct us.”

By the way: This article again had a picture with the members of the Governing Body.

Praying for the Governing Body was again emphasized in Watchtower 2022 July. In the explanation of this picture:

w22 July p. 23 „What can we pray about for our brothers and sisters? (See paragraphs 14-16)*”
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A sister prays that Jehovah bless the Governing Body with his spirit and help those who are suffering from disasters and persecution.

The picture description in the Watchtower says: „A sister prays that Jehovah bless the Governing Body with his spirit …“ Pictured is, of all members of the Governing Body, Anthony Morris III … who since the beginning of 2023 … is no longer part of the Governing Body.

How serious is the Governing Body about being followed?

During the great tribulation, a change will take place regarding the brothers who take the lead on earth. At some point, all anointed ones who are still on earth will be gathered to heaven to share in the war of Armageddon. (Matt. 24:31; Rev. 2:26, 27) This means that the Governing Body will no longer be with us on earth. However, the great crowd will remain organized. Capable brothers from among the other sheep will take the lead. We will need to show our loyalty by supporting these brothers and by following their God-given direction. Our survival will depend on it!

w19 October S. 17-18 par 14 Stay Faithful Through the “Great Tribulation”

So life does not only depend on following the instructions of the present Governing Body, but also their helpers who do not belong to the “faithful and discreet slave”! Did you notice that there is not a single Bible text given here as proof? Well, then there probably isn’t one. But these words of Jesus:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 10:27, 28 NIV

What are the duties of the Governing Body now? The Organized Book of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which contains all the organizational instructions for publishers – except for the secret books and letter to elders and branches – states:

5 Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who constitute “the faithful and discreet slave” have served together at headquarters. Today, these anointed brothers make up the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
6 … So the faithful slave also oversees material assets, the preaching activity, assembly and convention programs, the appointment of overseers to serve in various capacities in the organization, and the production of Bible literature, all of which benefit the “domestics.”​—Matt. 24:45. …

od chap. 3 p. 19-20 “Remember Those Who Are Taking the Lead Among You”

While the Watchtower in 1972 still stated that “The Governing Body has its strictly delimited spiritual field of action.”, now it also controls all material means and the complete organization and even the (eternal) life of every Jehovah’s Witness.

Has anything changed in the position of the Governing Body since then. If one reads this Watchtower from February 2021 superficially, one could almost think so:

The Role of the Governing Body
The members of the Governing Body are not masters over the faith of their brothers and sisters. (2 Cor. 1:24) They recognize Jesus Christ as the head of the Christian congregation, and they agree wholeheartedly with the Lord’s admonition to his disciples: “All of you are brothers.” (Matt. 23:8)

w21 February p. 19 Understanding Headship in the Congregation, Box

But you just have to keep reading in the box:

Under the headship of Christ Jesus, the members of the Governing Body provide helpful direction to organize Jehovah’s people worldwide. … The Governing Body also takes very seriously its responsibility to provide spiritual food and instruction from God’s Word. The Governing Body does so through letters, printed guidelines and publications, JW Broadcasting® programs as well as through schools, meetings, conventions, and assemblies. (Acts 15:22-35)

w21 Februar S. 19 Die Leitung durch ein Haupt in der Versammlung

So there are ‘written guidelines’ after all. Can you follow them or not? Can you really have a faith that deviates from the teachings of the Governing Body? We do not need to guess. A year later, one could read:

8 Today Jehovah leads the earthly part of his organization by means of “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) Like the first-century governing body, this slave oversees God’s people worldwide and gives direction to congregation elders. (Read Acts 16:4, 5.) The elders, in turn, implement the direction in the congregations. We show that we trust in Jehovah’s way of doing things by heeding the direction we receive from the organization and the elders.
15 As the end of this system of things draws near, we need to trust in Jehovah’s way of doing things as never before. Why? During the great tribulation, we may receive instructions that seem strange, impractical, or illogical. Of course, Jehovah will not speak to us personally. He will likely provide direction through his appointed representatives. That will hardly be the time to second-guess the direction or to view it with skepticism, wondering, ‘Is this really coming from Jehovah, or are the responsible brothers acting on their own?’ How will you fare during that crucial time in human history? The answer might be indicated by how you view theocratic direction now. If you trust the direction we receive today and readily obey, you will likely do the same during the great tribulation.​—Luke 16:10.

w22 February p. 4 par. 8, 15 Do You Trust in Jehovah’s Way of Doing Things? (Italics and bold in the publication)

And just three months later:

9 We must reject the teachings of apostates. … What about us today? We must reject any teaching that is opposed to Jehovah’s thinking. Apostates may have “an appearance of godliness,” but they prove “false to its power.” (2 Tim. 3:5) It is easier to identify and reject false teachings when we are diligent students of God’s Word.​—2 Tim. 3:14-17; Jude 3, 4.

w22 May p. 4 par. 9 Revelation—What It Means for You Today

And who determines what is “opposed to Jehovah’s thinking”? The Governing Body! But I am not allowed to quote from the secret herding book for elders … Although. You can even find it on the Internet. So here are the secret instructions to elders, Shepherd the flock of God April 2023 edition, chapter 12 „Determining Whether a Judicial Committee Should Be Formed“.

39 Apostasy: Apostasy is a standing away from true worship, a falling away, defection, rebellion, abandonment. It includes the following:
(1) Celebrating False Religious Holidays
(2) Participation in Interfaith Activities
(3) Deliberately Spreading Teachings Contrary to Bible Truth: (2 John 7, 9, 10; lvs p. 245; it-1 pp. 126-127) Any with sincere doubts regarding the Bible truth taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses should be helped. Loving assistance should be provided. (2 Tim. 2:16-19, 23-26; Jude 22, 23) If one obstinately is speaking about or deliberately spreading false teachings, this may be or may lead to apostasy. If there is no response after a first and a second admonition, a judicial committee should be formed.—Titus 3:10, 11; w86 4/1 pp. 30-31.
(4) Causing Divisions, Promoting Sects: (Rom. 16:17, 18; Titus 3:10, 11) This would be deliberate action disrupting the unity of the congregation or undermining the confidence of the brothers in Jehovah’s arrangement. It may involve or lead to apostasy.—it-2 p. 886.
(5) Employment Promoting False Religion
(6) Spiritism
(7) Idolatry

Shepherd the flock of God, edition April 2023, chapter 12 Determining Whether a Judicial Committee Should Be Formed

However, the sentence from the Watchtower May 2022 is somehow already correct: “It is easier to identify and reject false teachings when we are diligent students of God’s Word.” I can really recommend this to every sincere Jehovah’s Witness.

One can also formulate the claim of the Governing Body in relation to the faith of each preacher indirectly, see Watchtower November 2022:

Since 1919 C.E., the anointed have enjoyed living in a spiritual paradise.* As time has progressed, those with an earthly hope, the “other sheep,” have also settled in this spiritual land and have enjoyed Jehovah’s abundant blessings.​
Footnote: EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: “Spiritual paradise” refers to the secure environment in which we worship Jehovah in unity. In this environment, we have an abundance of spiritual food that is free from religious lies and we have plenty of satisfying work to do in preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. We enjoy a close relationship with Jehovah, and we live in peace with our loving brothers and sisters, who help us to endure life’s challenges with joy. We enter the spiritual paradise when we begin worshipping Jehovah in the right way and when we do our best to imitate him.

w22 November How Jehovah Helps Us to Endure With Joy, p. 12 par. 14

And what have we read so many times now in the Watchtower, who provides the “spiritual food”, that is, determines it? The Governing Body …

And there is the current video from 2023 Kenneth Flodin equates the voice of the Governing Body with the voice of Jesus Christ by saying:

“The Governing Body is likened to the voice of Jesus, the head of the assembly. So when we willingly follow the faithful slave [another term for the Governing Body], we are ultimately following Jesus’ guidance and submitting to his authority.”

Kenneth Flodi, JW Broadcasting, morning worship 2023

I think that says it all.

A ‚council’ has become the one and only channel of God to whom all possessions have been handed over: Real estate and money, absolute power over the teachings and lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Christ’s representative on earth.

I’m exaggerating?

Is Christ to be seen anywhere in the illustration in the Watchtower April 2013? No, but this representative of Christ is to be seen directly under God as number 1 on earth. Even if Catholics are likely to object vehemently here. They have with the pope already the representative of Christ on earth (see e.g. katholisch.de). But that is another topic …

Was that in the illustration in the Watchtower April 2013 just a carelessness? Watchtower 2022 February p. 4. par. 8

Today Jehovah leads the earthly part of his organization by means of “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) Like the first-century governing body, this slave oversees God’s people worldwide and gives direction to congregation elders. (Read Acts 16:4, 5.) The elders, in turn, implement the direction in the congregations. We show that we trust in Jehovah’s way of doing things by heeding the direction we receive from the organization and the elders.
German Edition: When we follow the guidance that comes from Jehovah’s organization and elders, we prove that we trust Jehovah’s course of action.

Watchtower 2022 February p. 4. par. 8

What does the Bible say? So even the Bible of the Governing Body. Who is in charge of the assembly?

… just as the Christ is head of the congregation …

Epheser 5:23 Neue Welt Übersetzung der Zeugen Jehovas

But that really says it all now.


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